Posted by
Street Carnage
• 11.05.12 10:24 am

I’m sending you this because I feel like you’re the only ones who would dare run it but please don’t use my name. I went to two of the worst hit areas in New York to help out over the weekend and had two entirely different experiences. 

 

First, I went to Howard Beach in Queens. It’s mostly Italians and Irish, with a few Hispanics. It seemed like a lot of cops and fireman, and lower middle class / working class families. Then we went to Rockaway Beach in Brooklyn that (where we were at least) was all black. Some sounded like first generation African immigrants (we actually saw a woman carrying a huge box on her head). They appeared to be on social assistance or working poor. I’ve been to a couple of third world countries in my life and it felt just like it. I live in Bushwick and the vibe in Rockaways is really similar to the state housing 5 blocks from my place.

Anyway, here’s what happened.

 

Going without Internet for 14 hours was the extent at which Sandy inconvenienced me. After nearly a week of half-working from my couch, I decided to volunteer on Saturday. I had access to someone with a car and a half tank of gas, so whatever we did we had to keep it short and local. After driving around Williamsburg for an hour, we got in touch with some people who needed help in Queens. We first headed out to Middle Village, then to Howard Beach where we met up with a small team coordinating volunteers throughout Queens.

 

They were having volunteers canvas Howard Beach and take inventory of what people needed. What we found was people who had their shit together; despite having 14ft of water in their streets and even living rooms a few days prior. Nearly everyone we saw was busting ass and cleaning up their neighborhood. Kids were carrying wet sheetrock while their grandmas held garbage bags. Spirits were high, and most people we happy to see us, knowing that people outside of their community cared. “You kids are angels, thank God” one woman sputtered while crying tears of gratitude. At this point, we hadn’t done anything but ask if they needed supplies. Most people we ran into were like that lady but a few seemed almost insulted we wanted to help. They had it taken care of and didn’t need us slowing them down and fucking their progress up.

 

After spending about two hours walking around and writing order lists, we headed back to the volunteer station. It quickly became clear what people wanted more than anything were cleaning supplies. Without hesitating, I walked into a (completely dark and rancid) grocery store and found as many gloves and garbage bags as I could and I got them to the addresses in need. We then asked the coordinators “what’s next?” They told us that the Rockaways were in a bad spot and needed supplies immediately. We loaded our car and headed east.

 

The first thing I noticed about the Rockaways was it looked like Baghdad. Everything was sandblasted and there were overturned cars littering the streets. The second thing I noticed was nearly everyone (aside from cops and volunteers) was standing around.

 

We first drove down to 113th where they were “all full” as far as donations went. We then crawled our way up to 59th where we found a drop off spot. It was a fire station surrounded by state housing, there were black garbage bags of clothes piled super high and people were rummaging through them. Trash was everywhere.

 

We parked our car and started unloading. The first thing I set on the ground was immediately snatched away. Then someone grabbed a bag right out of my hand while saying “gimme that!” Then again, as I was making my way back to the car, a woman said “gimme that toilet paper!” pointing to the clearly visible toilet paper inside the back of the car. I handed it to her, reluctantly.

 

On the next trip two women grabbed a bag out of my hands and started pushing each other for it while arguing. Every time I walked back to the car (a total of about six trips) a young black guy in new clothes would ask, “Any sneakers in there?” Throughout this entire process the only person that said please or thank you was an elderly woman volunteer that had driven out with us.

 

Look, both these places got slammed and have experienced a lot the past week. These communities need help in a unique way and I should probably be out there helping more and not criticizing hurricane victims. I’m not upset because people didn’t show us gratitude but rather the attitudes of the people I encountered was so starkly different it disappoints me. The people of Howard Beach were acting as if this was challenge to their community, and that they would band together to get their feet back under them. The Rocakways (or at least the sliver of them we experienced) saw this as an opportunity to get free stuff while other people took care of the situation.

 

As we drove off we chatted about how much longer it’s going to take the Rockaways to recover, and with the attitude of some members of that community whether it would ever fully recover – or if it should. A girl that was riding with said “It’s sad, the environment they’ve been brought up in obviously hasn’t taught them to be motivated to contribute, or to be grateful when it’s appropriate.” That might not be entirely true, but it sure felt that way on Saturday.

 

-NAME WITHHELD

*Photos not provided by author but randomly stolen from Instagram.

 


Comments
  1. Lady friend says:

    ‘Merica! where we rag on the poor for being poor, cause its their fault.

  2. Sniffy says:

    Typical.

  3. Tom says:

    1) it’s a good piece, own it, 2) don’t fret, the feelings of trepidation at first noticing
    “cultural differences” are normal, 3) what you experienced is not unique to Howard Beach and Rockaway, it’s found everywhere, 4) be thankful you were able to acquire your cultural awareness through charity work and not through ass whipping/mugging/robbing/even worse, 5)don’t be ashamed of noticing it or acknowledging it.

    Now, if you’re ever in a discussion concerning what you experienced and somebody trots out the old tried and true “you’re a racist” – the appropriate response is: you too motherfucker.

  4. JOey says:

    Good article. Fuck the kneejerk racist fear, their entitlement culture has taught them well.

  5. lester says:

    Democracy Now interview w/ rockaway peeps today had a different perspec

  6. Jane says:

    “I should probably be out there helping more and not criticizing hurricane victims.

    It’s possible to do both. Just because someone is a “hurricane victim” doesn’t mean their behavior is above judgement. It sounds like these people act that was in general.
    @ladyfriend. Well it is the fault of some people that they are poor. If you drop out of school, have 6 kids by the time you are 23, are unmotivated, ect- yes you are more likely to be poor. It is wrong to cap on the working poor. It’s not wrong to cap on people who take a lot and contribute nothing as a way of life.

  7. Barry says:

    So what’s the takeaway? That blacks are lazy and whites are hard working?

    I understand that this story sits well with a narrative that is built on this site, hence the proviso that the author placed saying that they knew this site would publish it. But this stuff is so lazy and corny. I knew exactly what was going to be the crux of this post after the first sentence.

    This post is only guilty of one thing, and it’s not racism, it’s of being boring as fuck!

  8. RED says:

    How is it lazy and corny to volunteer and write about it?

  9. Sniffy says:

    I’m with Tom. Exactly.

  10. zig says:

    What I took away is there are two types of people in this country. People that want to work and people that want to leech. I could give a rats fuck what color they are. That is why I want to see more Mexican and Asians and Indians working here. We have way to many white and black folks not working.
    I am very bigoted and intolerant of people that do not want to work. I know way to many people that really can’t work that still try to do SOMETHING! Not wanting to work is lazy, useless and those people suck up resources we can ill afford. There are enough of them to give people that cannot work a really bad name.
    As for the person that wrote this, who knows, it may be true. Irrelevant though. Could be the beginning of a liberal New Yorkers education into adulthood.

  11. RED says:

    No white person on earth would deny the millions of fat ass People of Walmart who have the exact same mentality that these entitled dicks have in Rockaway. That being said, you’re allowed to notice something. The irony of all these apologists is they are the ones who made these blacks this way. When you tell someone they have been ripped off and they built this country and had it stolen and everyone is rich off their backs and nobody will ever let them win, they don’t feel like trying. They feel like getting paid back.

    People like Barry do a lot more harm to blacks than racists could ever do.

  12. soundsgewd says:

    my issue is that it doesnt have anything to do with race.

    our society in general feels “entitled” earn something for nothing

    when floods hit the midwest it was plenty of people waiting to be “helped” instead of being a community. they all waited for ashton kutcher to show up with the publishers clearing house van.

    i dislike the ability to pick and choose what best suits your need to prove points while ignoring the wrongs that exist on all sides.

    being told whites ripped you off and made your ancestors slaves and saying mexicans stole your job and the big wigs sent all the other jobs over to china rings very similar bells.

    projects trailer parks. same diff.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I had to read back to find out why you were all taking such a racial view of this piece. When I first read it I just thought, “huh, crazy how there can be such duality in different parts of just one city” because I don’t know shit about either of these places. Good on this guy for volunteering though. I’d like to imagine I’d volunteer some time if anything tragic ever happened to Tucson, AZ. Seriously though people, stop living on the goddam coast.

  14. Tewk says:

    The number 1 problem in this country can’t be solved until people refuse to be afraid to be called “racist”.

  15. Rockaway Mary says:

    You hit the nail on the head. the free shuttle train doesn’t go all the way to Beach 116th street, only from Far Rockaway to Beach 90th Street. this enables looters who are all black and hispanic to loot the white people that think they owe them something. In the meantime, the looting pieces of shit who live in the housing projects have electricity while hard working people who are not on welfare don’t have it or heat and hot water. the free shuttle train enables the slobs on Section 8, NYCHA & other housing subsidies to drag their huge shopping carts to the whiter sections to grab anything they can. In one relief station I was warned to not leave my purse or coat unattended, it would be stolen. the black and hispanics are not volunteering, they are taking. the whites are coming from everywhere and working for free, while once again, the blacks are taking. there was one black Caribbean woman volunteer handing out free food but had such an attitude, I figured she was scamming something that’s why she was behind the table
    the blacks who came out of the Hammels housing project are animals. they looted a strip mall at 8am right after the hurricane instead of seeing what they could do for people, they only hurt people. this is why Rockaway will never come back from the hurricane.

  16. Rockaway Mary says:

    victim vs. survivor mentality

  17. […] ripped out drywall and hauled garbage for days. Not only didn’t they ask outsiders for help, theydidn’t even want it. Brooklyn isn’t a huge borough. It’s a tiny […]


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